Achraf Lazaar's poor U23s performance showed why Rafa Benitez was right not to take him to Burnley

Achraf Lazaar
Achraf Lazaar

Achraf Lazaar put in an underwhelming performance at Whitley Park on the same night that Rafa Benitez felt the need completely change his formation to make up for Paul Dummett’s absence 120 miles away at Turf Moor.

The former Palermo defender was part of a Newcastle United Under-23s side that scrapped to a 3-2 win over their Stoke City counterparts.

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There had been talk that Lazaar could be drafted into Benitez’s starting line-up to replace the injury-stricken Dummett against Burnley, but on this performance the United manager has made the right call in leaving his £3m signing out of the squad.

That’s not to say that the Moroccan didn’t provide some positives from his left-wing position on a damp and chilly night on North Tyneside.

He fired in one early cross that was bundled goalwards by United captain Owen Bailey, only to be easily saved by Potters keeper Daniel Gyollai.

And Lazaar provided plenty of defensive cover to young left-back Ollie Walters as he struggled to cope with the lively Thiband Verlinden.

But far too often Lazaar had to come inside to try and get himself in the game and although he had plenty of possession, he couldn’t produce anything meaningful during the first-half.

His second-half performance didn’t get off to the best of starts as he was robbed of possession within moments of the restart, sent a 25-yard shot high and wide and then wasted the chance for a free run down the left when he was naively caught offside.

He cut a frustrated figure as the hour-mark approached when Mo Sangare chose to play a difficult pass out to Callum Roberts on the right, despite Lazaar being unmarked ten yards to his left as United wasted a four-on-three break.

Just as he had in the first-half, Lazaar drifted in and out of the game, never shying away from asking for the ball, but never having an impact on the game.

With just under 10 minutes left the No 11 flashed up on the substitutes’ board and his night was over as he was replaced by the lively Adam Wilson.

His performance will have done little to convince Benitez that he had done wrong in not taking him to the North West on Monday night, or that the United boss should consider putting him in his squad for any fixtures over a hectic December.